Counter-corruption strategies

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to combat corruption. A counter-corruption strategy can be designed depending on the perspective from which corruption is regarded as a problem. While the economic perspective may depend on reducing the incentives to engage in corruption or its costs, politics suggests that corruption can be fought through reforms to enhance democratic practices, and so forth. Counter-corruption policies also differ in terms of their underpinning logic. They might be ‘control’ policies, depending on the effective laws enforcement; ‘exit’ policies, relying on the creation of alternatives for public services for people by minimising the monopolistic position of the state; or ‘voice’ policies, focusing on the effective participation of civil society. However, not all potential strategies are addressed here. This section identifies the strategies commonly devised in the abstract and used in Kuwait to counter corruption from three aspects: a social perspective (section 3.3.1), a legal perspective (section 3.3.2), and a preventive perspective (section 3.3.3). Interestingly, the three premises of counter-corruption strategics studied here are highly consistent with the underpinnings of the Strategy 2019-2024, especially with regard to its principles of‘inclusiveness’ (prevention, enforcement, and awareness strategies) and ‘achievability’ (not distracting the efforts and focusing on what is realistically achievable).

Social empowerment

Civil society has a critical role to play when discussing counter-corruption strategies. According to Article 13 of the UNCAC, the participation of civil society is emphasised besides the state in raising awareness of, and countering, the effects of corruption. One way of fighting corruption is to strengthen the civil society

alongside other state institutions. This strategy can help to reduce civil society’s vulnerability to political and economic influences, preventing its members from being ‘the instigators or targets of corruption’.[1] It also helps to reinforce the strength, self-dependence, and autonomy of the society before the dominant political monopolies. Rather than focusing on those who combat corruption (such as law institutions), it relies on involving the victimised element (society) as a stakeholder in the plan targeted at reducing corruption. In general, it depends on bottom-up reforms that aim to include the excluded, peripheral actors of the society, to expand the base of economic and political arenas, protect their activities in the state, and ensure their vigorous involvement in political life, as well as monitoring the behaviours of officials.

Although social empowerment is by no means an alternative to other institutional reforms, it represents a social foundation for any potential reforms in countries where corruption is systemic, state institutions tend to perpetuate corruption, and the people are vulnerable to corruption. In general, economic and political institutional reforms are more sustainable and productive when they are backed by effective ‘social processes’ that enhance the political and economic contention within society. Unless there is a countervailing force, the emerging powerful political leadership can easily harness the counter-corruption campaigns for perverted purposes. If there is no active civil society, whose participation in the control of corruption can bring positive results, counter-corruption campaigns will be transitory and corruption then reasserts itself. Thus, it is said that the social empowerment strategy has the potential to consolidate the ‘reactive’ measures against corruption when it makes the political influence on law enforcement authorities more difficult.

Social empowerment is a mechanism of horizontal accountability, where the government’s activities are not only accountable to formal institutions, but also to actors outside the governmental body. When social empowerment is achieved, other institutional reforms and the conduct of officials will conform to the social values, and thereby, opportunistic politicians will be restrained. In the long run, the rule of law will be an embedded value of political life and public order. Therefore, as analysed above, the values of transparency (FOI legislation) and accountability (especially political accountability through the electorate) are necessary conditions to empower the citizens. In this sense, the social empowerment strategy comprises elements that ‘provide powers and incentives

for members of the population to take appropriate action’.[2] Indeed, ensuring the basic conditions for this strategy is the threshold from which a civil society can proceed to discharge its role effectively.

The civil society in Kuwait has the potential to perform a role in social empowerment in many ways. Constitutionally, the right to form societies ‘on a national basis and by peaceful means’ has been stipulated and no individual shall be restrained from joining any of these societies. As a result, the Associations Act 24/1962 permits citizens to form NGOs that can achieve an array of aims, including social, cultural, religious, and sport-related objectives. Also, Articles 36 and 37 of the Constitution guarantee freedom of opinion and freedom of the press and publication. Consequently, the media sector in Kuwait has been somewhat liberalised since 2006, thanks to the Press and Publication Act 3/2006 and the Audio-Visual Media Act 61/2007, which lifted some of the restrictions imposed on the newspapers and media channels. Though these platforms help the society undertake its socio-political functions and exert pressure on the government, this section concentrates on the NGOs as a prominent platform.

Until 2005, there were no NGOs specialised in the counter-corruption field. In that year, the Kuwait Association for Protecting Public Funds (KAPPF) was established: to increase public awareness, to underline the importance of protecting and maintaining public funds, and to expose any misconduct to the competent authorities. In 2006, more importantly, the KTS was promulgated to embody the belief in the role of civil society in the fight against corruption. These NGOs probably encouraged MP-1 to argue that the civil society is performing its role in combating corruption. He/she added that ‘as a person that has lived a long experience of being a MP, I can assure you that the civil society now is more effective than that society 10 years ago’. The increasing emergence of voluntary groups in the Kuwaiti society, as MP-1 argued, can be seen as a good example of the improvement in the role of the civil society. Interestingly, this interviewee stated that the NGOs have effectively been able, on several occasions, to trigger the National Assembly and the government to take action regarding corruption scandals. In principle, therefore, the space for civil society to contribute to combating corruption has been constitutionally and statutorily safeguarded.

With its focus on the ‘inclusiveness’ principle, the Strategy 2019-2024 underlines the strategic eminence of the society-oriented reforms as the ‘Third Pillar’ of the Strategy. The role of NGOs has elicited the attention of policymakers. The Strategy proceeds from the fact that the society is the ultimate victim of corruption and, therefore, should be a strategic partner in combating it. Thus, the Strategy aims to ‘empower’ Kuwaiti society (through NGOs) to

build a corruption-free and integrity-based environment. The reforms focus on awareness programmes against corruption, harnessing the role of the NGOs, education, family, and media and social media platforms. Most relevantly, the Strategy aims to engage NGOs in the counter-corruption efforts through supporting their initiatives and consolidating their role in terms of popular oversight. To that end, the Strategy induces the state institutions through a specific plan to be more responsive to the issues that the NGOs raise in relation to cou nter- corruption.[3]

Notwithstanding the formal recognition by policymakers of the role of NGOs in combating corruption, the bottom-up social empowerment reform faces informal obstacles that lie within the social elements themselves. Ironically, the nature of the social organisation in Kuwait is part of the problem, that is, it is the first hindrance to the progress of civil society. Corruption is, as Johnston argued, ‘a profoundly social process involving real people in concrete situations.’ So, what is the socio-political leverage of NGOs on the whole society? Do the Kuwaiti citizens turn to the NGOs to confront corruption?

In chapter 2, the argument was made that corruption is embedded in the cultural and social settings. The social relationships are formed within the tribalism and sectarianism, which give rise to diverse and segregated factions. The non-cooperation and lack of cohesion between the components of society affect social relationships, resulting in an imbalance in the state-society relationship. In this setting, groups are vulnerable to the government. NGOs do not represent an alternative political resource that citizens can resort to, and they cannot reduce the citizens’ vulnerability, which eventually reinforces their dependence on the state. One governmental expert argued that the NGOs suffer from a lack of independence: ‘there have been several occasions when an association has been arbitrarily dissolved because of its opinion, which did not correspond with the attitudes of the government’. One social activist based his/her perception of the weak role of civil society in public matters on the intrinsic features of the society itself. NGO-1 explained that the current social and political situation reveals the fact that the civil society in Kuwait has been deflated, arguing that the civil society itself is very vulnerable to the politics and is influenced by the social components. The interviewee gave an illustrative example of how the civil society is disjointed:

The associations tend not to participate in any suggestions, initiatives and other activities that have a political dimension. The NGOs in Kuwait tend to come together on issues that are indisputable. But when it comes to the

political issues, they do not interact. We are talking about NGOs that are negatively influenced by the surrounding political climate.[4]

Social empowerment also faces formal obstacles related to the non-supportive legal environment. The Associations Act 24/1962 represents a stumbling block that hinders the growth of social engagement in combating corruption. This Act contains governmental restrictions on the activities of NGOs and is ‘founded on the notion of almost full control and discretion by the executive branch over NGOs’. First, the incorporation of NGOs requires the formal approval of the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA). Second, the Act prohibits NGOs from joining, participating in, or affiliating with any foreign entity without seeking the permission of the MoSA. Finally, and more seriously, the Act grants the MoSA close supervision over NGOs, including wide discretionary power to dissolve an NGO, or replace its elected Board of Directors. NGOs are not allowed to practise political activities, and if they do, their engagement triggers governmental intervention that results in their dissolution. This restriction has always given rise to contention between the government and social activists. In the 1970s, some NGOs were dissolved because of their involvement in political activities. In 2015, because of groundless allegations that the KTS had a political bias, the elected Board of Directors of the KTS was dissolved and replaced with a government-appointed board - this intervention was considered ‘a peak in the massive harassment’ and led to the suspension of the KTS as a fully accredited chapter of TI. The state, then, has the ability to penetrate and control civil society through the restrictions imposed by the Associations Act 24/1962. This situation is symptomatic of broader flaws in the state’s institutional structure, particularly in regard to the socio-political institutions. In general, these governmental practices are consistent with the argument that ‘Arab governments are simply not used to involving a second party to share power with or allow an outsider to monitor its performance’.

The theoretical analysis goes hand-in-hand with what was found empirically. The role ofNGOs in relation to counter-corruption is limited. NGO-2 believed that there are many restrictions on the NGOs with regard to the criticism of the government. NGO-2 gave two examples: TV stations and newspapers of both

Dar Al-Watan Newspaper and Alam Al-Toum.172 The interviewee stated that the government only accepts the fact that the NGOs may suggest improvements, but it does not accept criticisms of governmental practices.[5] NGO-3 said that the government imposes burdensome restrictions on the NGOs, which, in turn, deprives civil society of its role. He/she added that ‘their role has been nominal rather than actual: when an association engages in a political issue, this may lead to its dissolution’.

When asked whether the government takes the initiative to encourage NGOs to engage in counter-corruption matters, one participant argued that the government seems not to uphold the role of civil society, as long as it does not secure their independence. Official-4 commented that ‘the government tends to undermine the independence of the NGOs, such as what happened to the KTS in 2015’. Another interviewee believed that the government is keen to keep the NGOs under its control: ‘it has always been intervening in the elections of those associations’. Another manifestation of the lack of governmental support for NGOs was illustrated by NGO-3, who stated that that since 2005, the MoSA has stopped the financial support it used to give to the associations.

MP-1 had a different view, believing that the government encourages NGOs, albeit in a limited way. He/she asserted that ‘more steps are on their way’. This different view was criticised by another participant; NGO-1 opined that the government does not believe in the role of civil society in public matters. NGO-1 argued that when the government feels that it is compelled to cooperate with NGOs to address corruption, it purports to be engaged in ‘ostensible cooperation with the civil society’ just to satisfy the international community. The interviewee gave an example of that ‘ostensible cooperation’:

Since 2018, KTS has been dealing with the government to induce the latter to adopt a number of integrity-related programmes. However, although it has been keen to meet with the KTS, the government has not had the desire to take this step seriously; all that it wanted was to show the international communities that it was trying.

In conclusion, the legislative and social environments in Kuwait have stunted social empowerment in matters related to corruption. However, social empowerment, especially through the NGOs, is possible. In regard to overcoming the

challenges of the social empowerment strategy in Kuwait, two points can be raised. First, empowering people to confront corruption first assumes studying their culture. Second, any potential reforms to the regulatory framework of NGOs will require intensive efforts, taking into account the dominance of the state as a prominent characteristic of the political institutions in Kuwait. It is surprising that Strategy 2019-2024 has not addressed those two critical issues; nor has it addressed the very nature of the social construction. Furthermore, it has not brought in reforms related to the statutory provisions regarding the relationship between NGOs and the state.

  • [1] Johnston (1998, p. 92). 2 UNODC (2003). 3 Johnston (1998). 4 See ibid., p. 87. 5 Johnston and Kpundeh (2004). 6 UNODC (2003). 7 UNODC (2004, p. 291). 8 Collier (2002). 9 Johnston (1998).
  • [2] UNODC (2004, p. 290). 2 Kuwaiti Constitution, art.43. 3 International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (2017). 4 The latest updates of their activities are available on their Twitter account: @KAPPF. 5 See . 6 MP-1.
  • [3] Nazaha (2019, p. 17). 2 Johnston (1998, p. 88). 3 See chapter 2.3.4.1. 4 Johnston (1998). 5 Official-4. 6 NGO-1.
  • [4] Ibid. 2 International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (2017, p. 1). 3 Associations Act 24/1962, ss.l and 30. 4 Ibid., s.30. 5 Ibid., s.27. 6 Ibid., s.6. 7 International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (2017). 8 See . 9 Al-Kilani (2007, p. 12). 10 Official-4; NGO-2; NGO-3; NGO-1.
  • [5] NGO-2 argued that the authorities withdrew the licences of these publishing companies based onalleged political reasons. Seeandchttps://cpj.org/2015/02/kuwaiti-court-upholds-government-shutdown-of-al-wa.php>. 2 NGO-2. 3 NGO-3. 4 Official-4. 5 NGO-2. 6 NGO-1.
 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >